Near the junctions of US Highways 93, I-90, 200 and 12; 116 miles to Helena, 150 miles to Glacier National Park, 120 miles to Butte, 279 miles to West Yellowstone, 360 miles to Billings. Population: 67,000. Visitor Information: Missoula Convention and Visitors Bureau, 101 E Main; Phone: (800) 526-3465; Website: www.missoulacvb.org
Known as the “Garden City,” Missoula is considered the cultural center of the state. Montana’s second largest city is home of the University of Montana and is a mecca for authors, artists, performance, film and music.
Just one of many art venues in town, the Missoula Art Museum hosts over 25 exhibitions from local and international artists every year, offering events, classes and programs such as film screenings, literary readings, live music, artist lectures, panel discussions, exhibition tours and social receptions.
Other museums include the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, the Holt Heritage Museum, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, the Childrens Museum, the Montana Natural History Center, the National Museum of Forest Service History and the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History.
The first woman elected to Congress, before women even had the right to vote, was raised in Missoula. Jeanette Rankin was also known for being the only legislator to vote against both World Wars.
View all the historical sights in town by taking a walking tour and discover the impressive architecture of Missoula, which first sprang up in 1860 as a trading post called Hellgate. The classic County Courthouse and spectacular 1889 St. Francis Xavier church are just down the street from one another. Next to the river is a spectacular old-style movie house, the Wilma Theater. Missoula has one of the state’s most extensive listing of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Missoula hosts the Ol' Wild West Fest in August, a weekend to experience history firsthand with exciting 1800s western re-inactments and interactive displays. Geared for all age groups, the festival offers pony rides, rope making, gold panning, Victorian fashion show and Grande Ball.
Glacial Lake Missoula was a vast prehistoric lake in western Montana, created when the Cordilleran Ice Sheet crept south, blocking and damming the Clark Fork River near present day Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho. Named for the city that still bears physical evidence of the lake, the ancient shore lines can be seen high on the mountain sides surrounding Missoula. Filling and emptying repeatedly from 13,000 to 15,000 years ago, Lake Missoula flooding shaped much of Idaho, Washington and Oregon’s landscapes, from car-sized boulders swept many miles from their origin, to the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington.
The broad Clark Fork of the Columbia River flows right through Missoula and offers something for everyone: kayaking, rafting, canoeing and fly fishing. Two major downhill ski areas are just minutes from downtown Missoula and miles of cross-country ski trails crisscross the adjacent Rattlesnake and Pattee Canyon Recreation Areas.
Rated the third most challenging course in the state, Larchmont Golf Course is the permanent home of the Montana Open, held annually in September. The University of Montana Golf Course, originally the Missoula Country Club established in the 1920s, is a nine hole public course.